Haven’t had much to write about lately, but now that we are back in the air, things are moving again. Endeavour was sitting in OPF-2 since before Christmas ready to roll out, but.. you already know the story with Atlantis, so I won’t rehash it. Anyway, we finally rolled to the VAB yesterday morning and I along with a couple of others from OPF-2 are following the bird to assist with vertical processing operations. Our attrition rate is causing us to cross train into other areas so that towards the end of the program, we won’t have a bunch of people who don’t know how to do some of the critical stuff that needs to happen to fly safely. Which leads me to what I did yesterday….
Two cranes are used to lift the orbiter off of the transporter in the VAB– the Lambourgini built “skateboard” that brings it from the OPF to the VAB. It was originally built for use at Vandenburg AFB in California to support shuttle launches out there, but that never materialized due to Challenger. Once it is lifted up, the two cranes move together to rotate the orbiter to the vertical position, where the aft section of the lifting fixture is removed. Techs ride boom trucks to access the fixture,
and position themselves to remove large pins holding the aft portion of the fixture to the spreader beams.
That pin just above the light in the center is what we removed. Waiting for the other side to get ready in the next shot– both pins have to be pulled at the same time so the fixture doesn’t shift and bind up.
Pins are pulled and the fixture is lowered to the floor so we come down.
Now the orbiter is adjusted to exactly 90 degrees using the payload bay doors as the reference point and approx. 3 hours of video and still photos are taken of the TPS for comparison to inflight images so any launch damage can be identified.
Acted as an observer during the orbiter’s positioning through the platforms so it could be mated to the tank. The orbiter is lifted up, turned 45 degrees so it can fit through the opening leading to the bay where the tank and boosters are waiting for it, and left at the top of the high bay for about an hour so any oscillations from the crane’s movement can dampen out. Then it is lowered into position through the platform cutouts– it took about an hour once lowering began to get it lined up for the soft mate to the tank. We were relieved by first shift at that point, so the soft mate happened sometime this morning. Was a pretty interesting experience for me. Now that things are winding down, gotta take this stuff in– in two years, all this will literally be history.